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The former part of this chapter acquaints us with the first miracle which our Saviour wrought, in turning water into wine; the occasion of it was, his being invited to a marriage-feast.
Here note, 1. That whenever our Saviour was invited to a public entertainment, he never refused the invitation, but constantly went; not so much for the pleasure of eating, as for the opportunity of conversing and doing good, which was meat and drink unto him.
Note, 2. What honour Christ put upon the ordinance of marrige; he honours it with his presence and first miracle. Some think it was St. John that was now the bridegroom; others, that it was some near relation of the virgin mother's; but whoever it might be, doubtless Christ's design was rather to put honour upon the ordinance than upon the person. How bold is the church of Rome in spitting upon the face of this ordinance, by denying its lawfulness to the ministers of religion! When the apostle affirms that marriage is honourable among all. Hebrews 13:4. Neither the prophets of the Old Testament, nor the apostles of the New, (St. Peter himself not excepted,) did abhor the marriage-bed, or judge themselves too pure for an institution of their Maker.
Note, 3. That it is an ancient and laudable institution, that the rites of marriage should not want a solemn celebration. Feasting with friends upon such an occasion is both lawful and commendable, provided the rules of sobriety and charity, modesty and decency, be observed, and no sinful liberty assumed. But it must be said, that feasting in general, and marriage-feasts in particular, are some of those lawful things which are difficultly managed without sin.
Note, 4. That our Saviour's working a miracle when he was at the marriage-feast, should teach us, by his example, that in our cheerful and free times, when we indulge a little more than ordinary to mirth amongst our friends, we should still be mindful of God's honour and glory, and lay hold upon an occasion of doing all the good we can.
Note lastly, As Christ was personally invited to, and bodily present at this marriage-feast when here on earth; so he will not refuse now in heaven to be spiritually present at his people's marriages. They want his presence with them upon that great occasion, they desire and seek it; he is acquainted with it, and invited to it, whoever is neglected; and where Christ is made acquainted with the match, he will certainly make one at the marriage. Happy is that wedding where Christ and his friends (as here) are the invited, expected, and enjoyed guests.
This want of wine was probably so disposed by the providence of God, to give our Saviour an opportunity to manifest his divine power in working a miracle to supply it.
Observe here, 1. How the Virgin enquires into the family's wants, and then makes them known to Christ.
Learn hence, That it is an argument of piety, and an evidence of Christian love, to enquire into the wants, and to recommend the necessities of others to Christ's care and consideration; whose bounty and munificence can readily and abundantly supply them.
Thus far the Virgin's action was good: she laid open the case to Christ; They have no wine. but Christ, who discerned the thoughts of Mary's heart, finds her guilty of presumption; she thought by her motherly authority, she might have expected, if not commanded, a miracle from him: whereas Christ was subject to her as a man during his private life: but now being entered upon his office a mediator, as God-man, he gives her to understand she had no power over him, nor any motherly authority in the business of his public office; therefore he says to her, Woman, what have I to do with thee?. He that charges his angels with folly, will not be taught when and how to act by poor crawling dust and ashes.
Observe therefore, 2. Christ calls the Virgin, Woman, not Mother; but this was not out of any contempt, but to prevent her being thought more than a woman, above or beyond a woman, having brought forth the Son of God. Woman, says Christ; not Goddess, as the Papists would make her, and proclaim her free from sin, even from venial sin; but Christ's reproving her shows that she was not faultless.
Observe, 3. Christ would not bear with the Virgin's commanding on earth, will he them endure her intercession in heaven? Must she not meddle with matters appertaining to his office here below, and will it be endured by Christ, or endeavoured by her, to interpose, in the work of mediation above? No, no; were it possible for her so far to forget herself in heaven, she would receive the answer from Christ which she had on earth, Woman, what have I to do with thee? or thou with me, in my mediatorial office? But instead of this, she returns answer from heaven to her idolatrous petitioners here on earth, "What have I to do with thee? Get you to my Son, go you to Christ, he that was the Mediator of redemption; he, and only he, continues the Mediator of intercession."
O how foolish, as well as impious, is it to think, that she who had not so much power as to direct the working of one miracle on earth, should have now lodged in her hands all the power of heaven!
In this miracle of our Saviour's turning water into wine, Observe, 1. The reality of the miracle, and the sincerity of Christ in the working of it. The evidencce there was no deceit in the miracle, not wine-casks, but water-pots, are called for; wine-vessels, in which some lees were remaining might have given both a vinous colour and taste to the water; but stonepots could contribute nothing of this nature; and being open pots, there was not stealing wine into them without observation.
Again, our Saviour's employing the servants, and not his disciples, takes off any suspicion of collusion; and his sending it to the ruler or governor of the feast, was an evidence that the miracle would bear examination. Our Saviour's miracles were real and beneficial; they were obvious to sense, not lying wonders, nor fictitious miracles, which the jugglers in the church of Rome cheat the people with. The greatest miracle which they boast of, transubstantiation, is so far from being obvious to sense, that it conrtradicts the sense and reason of mankind, and is the greatest affront to human nature that ever the world was acquainted with.
Observe, 2. Though Christ wrought a real miracle, yet he would not work more of miracle than needed; he would not create wine out of nothing, but turned water into wine. Thus he multiplied the bread, changed the water, restored withered limbs, raised dead bodies, still working upon that which was, and not creating that which was not: Christ never wrought a miracle but when needful, and then wrought no more of miracles than he needed.
Observe, 3. The liberality and bounty of Christ in the miracle here wrought; six water-pots are filled with wine! Enough, says some writers, for an hundred and fifty men; had he turned but one of those large vessels into wine, it had been a sufficient proof of his power; but to fill so many, was an instance both of his power and mercy.
The Lord of the family furnishes his household not barely for necessity, but for delight, giving richly all things to enjoy. And as the bounty of Christ appeared in quantity, so in the excellency, of the wine; Thou hast kept the best wine until now, says the governor of the feast. It was fit that Christ's miraculous wine should be more perfect than the natural.
But, O blessed Saviour, how delicate and delicious shall that wine be, which we shall drink ere long, with thee in thy Father's kingdom! Let thy Holy Spirit fill the vessel of my heart with water, with godly sorrow and contrition, and thou wilt turn it into wine. For blessed are they that mourn, they shall be comforted.
Observe, 4. The double effects of this miracle; Christ hereby manifested forth his glory, and his disciples believed on him.
1. He manifested forth his glory; that is, the glory of his godhead, as doing this by his own power. Here shined forth his omnipotence, his bounty and liberality, every thing that might bespeak him both a great and good God.
The second effect of this miracle was, that the disciples believed on him. The great end of miracles is the confirmation of faith; God never sets the seals of his omnipotence to a lie; all the miracles then that Christ and his apostles did, were as so many seals that the doctrine of the gospel is true. If you believe not me, says Christ, believe the works which I do, for they bear witness of me, John 5:36
Observe here, 1. How obedient in all things Christ was to the ceremonial law. he was not naturally subject to the law, but, to fulfil all righteousness, he kept the passover yearly, according to the command of God, That all the males should appear before him Exodus 23:17 in the temple at Jerusalem.
Hence it is probably concluded, that Christ came up to the passover continually during his private life; and being now come up to Jerusalem to this first passover after his baptism, and solemn entrance upon his office, his first walk was to purge and reform it from abuses, not to ruin and destroy it, because it had been abused.
Now the abuse and profanation of the temple at that time was this: in the outward court of the Gentiles, there was a public mart or market, where were sold oxen, sheep, and doves, for sacrifice; which otherwise the people, with great labour and trouble, must have brought up along with them for sacrifice. Therefore as a pretended ease to the people, the priests ordered these things to be sold hard by the altar; the intention was commendable, but the action not justifiable. No pretence of good ends can justify that which is forbidden of God: a good end can never justify an irregular action.
Observe, 2. Our Saviour's fervent zeal in purging and reforming his Father's house. The sight of sin in any persons, but especially in and among professors, ought to kindle in our hearts (as it did here in Christ's breast) a burning zeal and indignation against it. Yet was not Christ's zeal so warm as to devote the temple to destruction, because of its abuse and profanation. Places dedicated to the worship and service of God, if idolatrously abused, must not be pulled down, but purged; not ruined, but reformed.
There is a special reverence due to the house of God, but for the Owner's sake, and the service's sake. Nothing but holiness becomes that place, where God is worshipped in the beauty of holiness. Christ by purging the court of the Gentiles from merchandise, not unlawful in itself, but necessary for the sacrifices which were offered in the temple, though not necessary to be brought there, did plainly insinuate, that a distinction is to be made betwixt places sacred and profane; and that what may be done as well elsewhere, ought not to be done in the house of God, the place appointed immediately for his worship.
Observe, 3. The greatness of this miracle, in the weakness of the means which Christ made use of to effect and work it: he drove the buyers and sellers before him out of the temple.
But how and with what?
St. Jerome, in Matthew 21:1 and following says , That certain fiery rays or beams, darting from Christ's eyes, drove out these merchants from this place. I dare not avouch this, but I am satisfied that Christ drove them out, unarmed with any weapons that might carry dread and terror with them, at most but with a whip of small cords; which probably might be scattered by the drovers that came thither to sell their cattle.
Behold then the weakness of the means on the one side, and consider the greatness of the opposition on the other. Here was a confluence of people to oppose Christ, this being the most solemn mart of the passover, and here were merchantmen, whose hearts were set upon gain (the world's god) to oppose him. But neither the weakness of the means, nor the greatness of the opposition, did dismay him, or cause our Saviour to desist from the attempt of reforming what was amiss in the house of God.
Learn we hence, that it matters not how weak the means of the church-reformation is, nor how strong the opposing power is; if we engage Christ in the undertaking, the work shall certainly be accomplished.
O, how great was the work, and how weak and unlikely were the means here! a parcel of sturdy fellows, whose hearts were set upon their wealth, Christ no sooner speaks to them, and shakes his whip at them, but like a company of fearful hares they run before him. Christ, in purging of his church, will make every thing yield and give way to his power. Let it comfort the church under all unlikelihood of reformation. Who art thou, O great mountain? before our spiritual Zerubbabel, thou shalt become a plain.
I shall close my observations upon this miracle of Christ's whipping the buyers and sellers out of the temple, which both Origen and St. Jerome do make the greatest miracle that ever Christ wrought, all circumstances considered; I shall close it with this reflection, viz. Was there such power and terror in Christ's countenance and speech here in the temple in the days of his flesh? Oh, how terrible then will his face and his appearance be to the wicked and impenitent world at the great day! Lord! how fearful will his iron courage then be; how terrifying that voice, "Depart, depart from me, depart accursed, depart into fire: depart into everlasting fire, into a fire prepared for the punishment of apostate spirits, the devil and his angels!" God grant we may wisely consider it, and timely flee from the wrath to come.
The disciples upon this occasion called to remembrance the words of David, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up: Psalms 69:9 which was verified in Christ as well as in David.
Where observe, 1. The grace described, zeal, which is the ardour of the affections, carrying forth a man to the utmost for God's glory, and his church's good. Zeal is not so much one affection, as the intense degree of all the affections.
Observe, 2. The object about which our Saviour's zeal was conversant, God's house, that is, all things relating to the worship of God, temple, tabernacle, ark, &c. which were the pledges of God's presence.
Observe, 3. The effect of this, it hath eaten me up, like fire that eats up and devours that whereon it lights. What was said of St. Peter, That he was a man made up all of fire; and of St. Paul in respect of his sufferings, that he was a spark of fire burning in the midst of the sea, may much more truly be said of Christ, when he was engaged in the work of church-reformation.
Learn, That as Christ was, so Christians ought to be, very zealous for the glory of God, the honour of his house, and the purity of his worship. The zeal of thine house, that is, for the honour of thine house, hath eaten me up, &c.
Observe here, 1. How exceedingly offended the Jews were at the reformation which our Saviour had made in the house of God; they were awed indeed with the majesty of this great work, and durst not openly oppose, but secretly malign it.
Thence note, That redress of abuses in God's worship, especially if it crosses our ease, and controls our profit, (as this did), is usually distasted.
Observe, 2. How these Jews discover their old inveterate disease of infidelity; they require a sign, and call for a miracle to justify Christ's commission. Why! had they not a miracle before their eyes? Was not the work of purging the temple a wonderful miracle? Yet they demanded another miracle to make this good.
Learn thence, That obstinate infidelity will not be satisfied with the most sufficient means for satisfaction, but still object and oppose against the clearest, the fullest, and most convincing evidence. What sign showest thou us? says the Jews, when they had so many signs and wonders daily before their eyes.
Observe, 3. The Jews demanding a sign. our Saviour grants them one; he remits them to his death and resurrection, to prove that he was the true Messiah. Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. That is, "I know you will destroy this temple of my body, by putting me to deaeth; but I will raise myself again from the grave the third day." Christ did not command them to destroy his body, but only foretold that they would do it. Non est verbum Praecepti, sed Praedictionis: "The words are not imperative, but only predictive and permissive." Christ did not bid them destroy his body, but foretells what they would do. "Ye will destroy this temple, but after three days I will raise it up."
Where note, That Christ asserts his own power in raising his own body from the dead. True! The Father is often said to raise him, and it is necessary that it be so said, that it might appear that divine justice was fully satisfied for our sins, in that he was by him delivered from that death which he underwent for us.
But yet it is often asserted, That Christ raised himself, and that he was quickened by the Spirit, which was as well the Spirit of the Son, as of the Father, dwelling essentially in him.
Now from Christ's foretelling his passion and resurrection, learn thence, that all our Saviour's sufferings wee foreknown unto him, were foretold by him; he would not prevent them, but willingly permitted them, and cheerfully underwent them. Destroy this temple.
Note here, 1. The state and dignity of Christ's holy body: 'Tis a temple. He spake of the temple of his body. The saints' bodies are temples by special sanctification: Christ's body was a temple by substantial inhabitation. The divinity of Christ dwelt in his humanity personally and immediately. God dwells in saints by regal authority; he dwelt in Christ's humanity by personal residence.
Note, 2. The violence and indignity offered to this holy temple at our Saviour's death, it was pulled down and destroyed; death dissolved the union betwixt our Saviour's soul and body; but there was a closer union, which no violence of death could dissolve: namely, the union of his godhead with his manhood; this was incapable either of dissolution or destruction.
Note, 3. The repairing, restoring, and raising up of this temple out of the ruins of it, by our Saviour's resurrection. In three days I will raise it up.
Observe, A full proof of our Saviour's divinity. To raise a dead man exceeds the power of nature; but for a dead man to raise himself, requires the power of God. We read of dead men raised by others; but none but Christ ever raised himself. The Jews could not say, he raised others from the grace, himself he could not raise.
Inference, 1. Was Christ's body a temple? so shall ours be too; temples for the Holy Ghost to dwell in. Temples by special appropriation, temples by solemn consecration, temples by actual employment: If any man defile this temple, him will God destroy.
2. Was the temple of Christ's body pulled down by death, and destroyed; so must also the temples of our bodies ere long. The temple of his body was pulled down for our sin; the temples of our bodies ruined by our sin. Sin brought mortality into our natures, and the wages of our sin is death.
3. Was the temple of Christ's body repaired in the morning of the resurrection? So shall the temple of our bodies also, if we be the members of Christ by a vital union. Thy dead men, O blessed redeemer! shall live; together with thy dead body shall they arise. Awake then and sing, ye that dwell in the dust, for the dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead, Isaiah 26:19
Observe here, What influence the sight of our Saviour's miracles had upon many of the common people, They believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did; that is, they were convinced by the works which our Saviour wrought that he came from God, and what he said and did was really true, and no imposture. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men. Our Saviour did not, and would not trust them who yet believed on his name.
Thence note, That a naked assent to the history of the gospel is not sufficient to entitle us to saving faith. We may assent to the truth of all that we find there, and yet be far from the kingdom of God.
Saving faith implies more than the assent of the understanding to the truths of the gospel. We cannot believe or disbelieve what we please, but must needs assent to what is evident to our understanding; so that it is possible for a man to assent to the truth of Christianity and yet remain in a state of of damnation.
If he doth not embrace it as good, as well as assent to it as true; if our faith be not the parent and principle of obedience; if our belief doth not influence our practice; though we pass for believers amongst men, we are no better than unbelievers in the account of Christ.
If we believe Jesus to be the true Messiah, and do not receive him in all his office; if we commit ourselves to his saving mercy, but do not submit ourselves to his ruling power; if we desire him for our Saviour, but disown him for our sovereign; if we expect salvation by him, and do not yield subjection to him; we put a cheat upon ourselves: for he only believes as he should, that lives as he does believe.
St. John's design in writing of this gospel being to assert the divinity of Christ, he scatters evidences of it in almost every chapter. Here he declares his omniscience, He knew what was in man; that is, being God blessed for ever, he had an exact knowledge of the hearts of men, not by any revelation of men's hearts from God, but by immediate intuition from himself. He knows all men, and all that is in men. See here an ample testimony of the divinity of Christ, his knowledge of the secrets of the hearts of all men, which is declared to be the undoubted property of God alone, Thou only knowest the hearts of all the children of men. 1 Kings 8:39
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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on John 2". Burkitt's Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the NT. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany